It has taken me a long time to wrap my head around the subject of earthing and determine how best to write on the subject in an informational way. Over the series of times I have put keys to keyboard, there have been several hurdles I’ve had to get over in order to finish this post in a way in which I felt satisfied.
The first hurdle is the fact that earthing seems so odd and bizarre to a lot of people, so just explaining what it is creates challenges. The second hurdle is that at first one may have to really stretch their mind to fathom how something like earthing can actually impact health and wellness, so the skeptic comes out in full force. The third hurdle is that it can be difficult discerning the motivations of some earthing promoters given that there are earthing products out there for sale, and some of the claims can seem too extraordinary at times. And the fourth hurdle, if you get to the point being ready to believe in the science, is that the science itself can be a little daunting to understand, especially when you get into alternative earthing methods that can potentially have similar effects to “pure” earthing. I don’t pretend to be an expert in any of it, though I’ve read as much as I can, so my goal is to give a summary of all the information out there and a little of my own personal experience along with it.
Oh, and I feel I should state that perhaps the biggest hurdle of all in actually getting this post written was the fact that I had to keep chosing between writing about earthing and actually earthing. Do I want to sit down and write about the science and benefits, or do I just want to take my shoes off, go outside, and walk around for an hour? Ultimately, I suppose, I should have gotten a chair outside and taken my laptop with me, feet in the grass, fingers on the keyboard, but nevertheless, I’m writing it now, so let’s get on with it!
What Is Earthing:
Simply stated, earthing is physically touching the surface of the earth with your bare skin. Yep, that’s it! The purest way of accomplishing this is to simply stand or walk barefoot on the ground, but the type of surface on which you stand has an impact on the effectiveness of earthing. Why does the surface matter? Well, we can get more into the science later, but for starters what you are trying to do with earthing is connect your body to the negatively charged surface of the earth and create a direct current of free electron flow (as opposed to an alternating current like you get through a power outlet) that can serve as free energy to the body and antioxidants to neutralize excessive free radicals (reactive oxygen species). In order to effectively conduct the flow of electrons, you need properly conductive materials, so standing in rubber shoes on asphalt won’t cut it. On the other hand, standing barefoot in a saltwater ocean will be very effective. The most common and convenient earthing situation, though, is barefoot on dirt or grass, and if those surfaces are wet, it will obviously enhance the conductivity.
In addition to the “pure” form of earthing, you can also make yourself grounded by keeping in contact with any object that is more negatively charged than your body, as the electrons will flow between the two in effort to equalize the charge. This is where some of the earthing technologies and products come into play, for instance mats and straps you can find on earthing.com that are then plugged into the grounding plug on any properly grounded outlet in your home or office. I have also heard of and seen “do-it-yourself” setups where folks will just run a metal rod into the dirt outside the house, connect it to a wire, run the wire through the wall, and then wrap the end of the wire around their arm or foot like a bracelet, this method residing somewhere in between the “pure” form and an alternative form since the contraption is still technically touching the earth. There are even ways you can ground yourself in a car or airplane, since both are electronically grounded, by touching your skin to the metal underneath your seat, for example (assuming there are still conductive metals not coated in insulating paints). Though I tend to be of the belief that there is more to earthing than just the free flow of electrons, deeper connections with nature, some of which we do not yet fully understand, alternative methods of grounding do still provide a similar flow of electrons.
How Can Earthing Make/Keep Us Healthy:
Based on what we’ve already covered, the free electron flow is the most obvious way earthing can benefit out health. The neutralization of free radicals is helpful to reduce inflammation and cellular damage, and the free energy is a bonus to any living entity helping to maintain order and reduce entropy. Based on some of the few studies done thus far on earthing, it also appears that there is a significant effect on the circadian rhythm via the normalization of cortisol. This circadian effect does a number of things for us including optimizing sleep cycles, improving healing and recovery, and reducing biological stress. Another study indicates earthing may improve nutrient efficiency by enhancing cellular exchange (which could be another synergistic effect of cortisol normalization by kicking in the parasympathetic nervous system). If you read the link on the second study, it may be counterintuitive at first when you see that it decreases levels of certain minerals in the bloodstream (sounds like a bad thing), but that is actually a positive indicator that they are being properly delivered from the bloodstream to the cells (note that the study was covering earthing while sleeping, the prime time for using nutrients for recovery). The finding of reductions of blood glucose for diabetic patients, however, is very intuitive and needs no further explanation of its importance.
In addition to the benefits of connecting with the earth, there are also the numerous benefits of walking barefoot in general (there’s some great reading here and here from Mark’s Daily Apple), not to mention getting outside in the fresh air and getting some sun (and getting away from indoor air and fake light). I’ve been going barefoot as often as possible lately, even indoors, to strengthen my foot muscles, correct my arches, and improve my posture. I’m finding so far that it has a significant impact on my lower back pain as opposed to walking in tennis shoes or especially dress shoes for work. And when I need something for a little protection, I wear my Vibram Five Fingers to most closely simulate barefoot. Take it easy in the beginning, though, to avoid excess pain and stiffness as your feet and calf muscles will be working under a load they are capable of but haven’t been used to for a long time!
The Marketing Effect:
The biggest source of marketing and product in the earthing arena is earthing.com. This was the first source of my information as well as my first product purchase, their earthing mat, which came along with a copy of their book, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discover Ever? Here you’ll find the story of Clint Ober, a cable industry veteran who connected some dots between grounding electronic equipment and the idea of grounding the human body. He initially started building his crude grounding pads for his own use and that of his friends and family before building on and marketing the idea and getting some scientific studies done on earthing. He has since gotten some help on board with Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a cardiologist who employs both conventional medicine along with some alternative therapies and delves into the mind-body connection and energy medicine realm.
Any time there are products to be sold, the skeptic in us has to come out for some due diligence. In all fairness to them, however, even in the book they frequently remind us of the benefits of simply walking barefoot, earthing for free, though they say the biggest advantage of their earthing products is that they allow us to plug into free electrons when we aren’t logistically able to be outside and during the eight hours while we’re sleeping (assuming you don’t normally sleep outside on the ground). The book title certainly makes me squirm a little, calling earthing possibly the most important health discovery ever, somewhat saving face with the use of the “?” at the end. And the book itself feels a little informercially at times with its heavy use of anecdotal success stories from users. That said, just because they may not do the best job of conveying the message in the proper way and are making some money off of earthing products, we shouldn’t immediately dismiss something that may truly be legitimate. Additionally, they do have the studies to show some of the effects (the studies mentioned earlier in this post are mostly ones conducted by Ober and company).
What made me really start to pay attention to earthing, beyond my own N=1 experiments leading to feeling more energy and a better sense of well being, was how it started to jive with everything else I learned and read along the way thereafter. Most of my important sources of health and wellness gems seem to indicate I’m on the right track here. Earthing is a large focus of Jack Kruse’s practices rooted in quantum physics (you can read Kruse’s EMF 1 blog here on the scientific explanation of how earthing works). Kruse, like Ober and his group, also frequently points to a study in 2005 by Roger Applewhite showing how the body does receive an electron flow from the earth sufficient to keep the body at the same negative-charge electrical potential and how that helps protect us from the negative effects of non-native EMF around us (EMF other than the natural fields from the earth, mostly from our electronic gadgets). You can see a discussion of the findings of the Applewhite study here and/or read about Kruse’s take on the study from his EMF 1 blog linked above.
Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, has done his own N-1 experiments on earthing as a way to reset his circadian rhythm to stave off jet lag while traveling. This was where I first heard of the earthing concept which led me to research and experiment further. Through the use of his favorite Quantified Self platform, it’s becoming easier to understand and prove via science why some of these natural, alternative, energy, mind-body sorts of things may have real efficacy in helping restore or maintain our health.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, another famed promoter of alternative medicine, is a big proponent of earthing and has a good writeup here along with a video interview of Clint Ober himself. Additionally, he has an interview with Dr. James Oschman, an energy medicine expert who also has teamed with Clint Ober and Dr. Sinatra in their book, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? Dr. Mercola is another successful web marketer who sells a lot of product, but I also believe he has a lot of good knowledge, and the bits on earthing aren’t selling anything, just encouraging walking barefoot outside…for free.
Even sources beyond my normal trusted circle are now starting to garner some attention for the earthing concept. This article from Fox News covers an interview with Dr. Laura Koniver, a general practitioner in South Carolina, who explains how antioxidants from food and supplements are a “drop in the bucket” compared to those from earthing. She even claims she has a number of patients that have been able to start losing weight only by adding earthing into their health regimen.
And to top it all off, I recently saw a Wall Street Journal article addressing the topic. It talks about possibilities of pain relief and better sleep, and while it holds a bit of skepticism and points out the need for more thorough research, to me just the idea that WSJ is even covering a “hippy” topic like earthing is a big deal! Likewise, I would like to mention that while the gentleman in the article is right pointing out the fact that the earth isn’t the only source of electrons, he may be slightly off in saying that the earth’s electrons are no different than any other electrons (Jack Kruse’s blogs discuss a lot about electron spin and capturing them in the right energetic state if you’d like your head split open via some deep reading), and the biggest point is that the earth is a large source, negatively charged that is most effective in establishing a direct current of flow to our bodies, one that restores us after spending our day around mand-made EMF that is draining our electrons in the process.
My Own Experience and Observations:
First of all, there are some very obvious effects that I have noticed and probably anyone else would. It feels good. Being outside, getting fresh air, standing in the sun, and putting your bare feet on grass, dirt, or sand, or, even better, standing or swimming in a lake, or, even better, standing or swimming in a saltwater ocean – salt enhances conduction – just feels good. Simply enhancing your mood can go a long way towards reducing stress and healing just about anything, not to mention the fact that, health aside, feeling good…well…feels good!
Second, and perhaps a little more subtle, I can usually feel a little tingling and sometimes a warming sensation on the skin touching a grounded source. I believe, and have read, that the tingling that some feel is the sensation of the direct current of electron flow, which seems to make sense, and that the warming sensation is due to increased blood flow, which makes good sense as well. I also start to feel calmer within a few minutes, and if I were to do a cortisol test right before earthing and ten minutes later, I would imagine my tests would be similar to the ones discussed earlier showing earthing to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Third, while this is admittedly anecdotal and there could be other variables distorting results, after a few months of testing, I am very convinced that I get to sleep quicker and sleep better on the nights where I do some earthing before bed. I also tend to notice the longer the better in that five minutes of earthing may not do much, but if I stand outside for thirty minutes reading or take an hour walk barefoot outside, I really notice the difference in sleep. And I feel much more ready for sleep before I even hit the bed. By the way, I also get a similar effect from red light, no light, and/or cold thermogenesis, though the more of them I use together, the more synergistically they work to promote sleep.
Fourth, though perhaps not entirely health related, you will be made fun of, at least a little! As a little side story, I had been earthing outside on our campus at work for probably two weeks when one day I noticed a security guard walking outside. And then I noticed another. And then it became obvious they were converging on me, communicating back and forth with walkie-talkies. When they approached me, they said they came to check me out because my badge didn’t appear visible, which was true, and because I was barefoot, which was “a little weird,” so they wanted to make sure I was really an employee. Of course, it didn’t take long for my coworkers to hear and spread the word! Personally I thought it was quite funny and enjoyable to explain the story, and I have mostly gotten over being embarrassed by any line of questioning about something odd I do at work – that will happen if you have an office setup like the one I posted about a few weeks ago – though I can understand that others may have a reputation that they want to uphold at work, one that doesn’t involve Huck Finn references.
Back to more biological observations now, I also tend to notice a subtle difference in energy. Whereas standing still for long periods of time and maintaining posture, say, at work or indoors a basketball game can be grueling and difficult at times, it doesn’t seem near as challenging when I’m standing barefoot outside. Posture feels much more effortless, and I think it’s both because of being barefoot and also because of being “plugged in” to the earth’s negative charge. I have read a lot of claims about how you can “literally feel pain and fatigue melt away a few minutes into earthing,” and while I think that may be exaggerated, I think this is the effect they are referring to. I can’t say that if I have a terribly sore neck and a back spasm that going barefoot outside makes them disappear in five minutes, but my general soreness and fatigue certainly seems to lighten up when I go earthing outside, especially the longer I stay out there.
Also, in terms of earthing products vs “pure” earthing, I do tend to think they both work, but the products do seem to be a little less effective. I still get similar tingling sensations from both, especially if it’s my sweaty feet on an earthing mat, and I notice I sleep better on an earthing mat than without one, but for the full wellness effect, they don’t seem to match actually being outside. In all fairness, though, that’s likely because being outside comes with other beneficial things such as natural light and infrared energy from the sun as well as fresher air, and that alone may explain the difference.
If you’ve read some of my earlier posts on EMF and related topics and/or any of Jack Kruse’s blogs, Gilbert Ling’s work, or that of Robert O. Becker and believe in the concept that our bodies have semi-conduction capabilities, that we essentially “photosynthesize” in a slightly different way than plants, and that fractal patterns in our universe are for real meaning we can learn a lot about our own thermodynamics and health from the way a giant star works, then no matter how bizarre earthing sounds at face value, it makes sense as to why it works. It may seem silly, it may feel weird doing it, and the marketing of it may turn you into an undue skeptic, but it could be one of the best things we can do as humans to facilitate our own health and wellness, something we evolved doing since the dawn of our species (and that of our predecessor species as well). I highly encourage everyone to put aside their egos, ignore those that may laugh or criticize (if that sort of thing bothers you), and see what it can do for your wellbeing. Don’t expect miracles, but get out of your own way enough to allow your intuition to tell you whether or not it’s working for you. I simply believe, based on experience and the growing science behind it, especially that of quantum physics and the earthing-specific studies, that our bodies are designed to take the gift of free electron energy from our environment to run metabolic functions and reduce entropy in the system, and ignoring that gift simply stacks more odds against you in the game of maintaining your health and vitality, living a long life, and making your health span equal your lifespan. All other organisms live outside, connected to the earth. We humans used to.